Active Shooter Series Part 1: Edgewater Technology, December 2000

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

December 26 was the 18th anniversary of the Wakefield, Massachusetts shooting at Edgewater Technology. The New York Times described the brutal event on December 28, 2000, in an article, “A Deadly Turn to a Normal Work Day.”

“They locked the accounting office door and barricaded it, but he shot off its handle and blew it open. They were hiding under their desks. He came in. He shot one man three times in the chest. He reloaded. He shot a woman twice in the legs and then in the head. The other woman in the office had draped her leather coat over the chair at her desk to conceal herself. She, alone, survived.”

As gruesome as this image may be to think about, it is valuable to go back and examine the response to the active shooter. We have discussed previously the three main steps of active shooter response: Run, Hide, Fight. Based on those steps, let’s analyze the response.

Run- Based on how the shooting occurred, running was not really an option. The shooter was a coworker who had come into work and been there for hours before he decided to open fire. However, there was a small window of opportunity. According to this same article, the shooter was packing loaded guns when a co-worker asked him where he was headed. After calmly replying that he needed to visit Human Resources, he waited a few minutes before shooting his first victim. As the shooter had loaded weapons in an office building to go visit HR, something about this encounter should have been a red flag. Remember that if something feels like it isn’t right, it most likely isn’t, even if you cannot quite put your finger on it.

Hide- According to this same article, the targets “locked the accounting office door and barricaded it, but he shot off the handle and blew it open.” This was also an abnormal active shooter case. Most of the time, shooters select their victims randomly, but this shooter had targets. (He felt like he was being “robbed” by the accounting department, and he specifically targeted that department.) Most of the time a shooter will not strongarm a locked door. Their goal is to take as many lives as possible in the five-minute window that they have. If this had been a normal active shooter, he most likely would not have continued into that room, thus the actions they took would have been sufficient. The article continues to describe the situation with the only woman that survived. One woman draped her coat over the back of her chair to conceal the opening under her desk where she was hiding. This additional step saved her life. Sometimes, surviving in an active shooter situation requires thinking outside the box.

Fight- There was no struggle. However, there was a point where a struggle may have saved lives. The above description says the shooter reloaded in between victims. Why did no one tackle the shooter while he was preoccupied with reloading his gun? Shooters expect their targets to be compliant and afraid. They rarely expect the unexpected. They think that because they hold the gun, they hold the power. However, while the shooter may have the gun, you have the will to survive and the element of surprise. We don’t know whether tackling the gunman would have saved lives, but it would have been better to try than to “go down without a fight.”

There are several tips we can learn from this shooting:

1. Listen to your gut. If something does not feel right, it probably isn’t right.

2. Think outside the box. The lone survivor was the one woman that outsmarted the shooter.

3. Never go down without a fight. You hold the element of surprise and the will to survive-both powerful weapons against someone who wants to do you harm.

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